Northwest Wine Tour on StarSail Cruises

June 28th, 2007

Join the Schooner Zodiac for a 4-day cruise June 28 to July 1 through the San Juan islands and tour Northwest wineries. Visit San Juan Vineyards, Lopez Island Vineyards, Camaraderie Cellars, Olympic Cellars and Chuckanut Ridge Winery during this all-inclusive cruise. Boudreaux Cellars from Leavenworth, WA will be your onboard representatives to lead the cruise with expert knowledge of local wines and provide an onboard tasting of their wines as well.

For a full itinerary, cost and more information visit

Viognier Blind Tasting Winner: $9 Pepperwood Grove from Sonoma County

June 25th, 2007

Blind tastings can be a lot of fun because they’re easy to set up, they allow you to sample a variety of wines at one sitting, and they often provide you with interesting results.

nullThis happened to me at a blind tasting with friends earlier this month. We sampled six Viogniers during the evening and the group favorite was – surprise – a $9 bottle from Sonoma Valley’s Pepperwood Grove. The wine easily beat out five other competitors from Europe, California and Washington – some of which were priced as much as $30 a bottle.

I have to admit that the Pepperwood Grove was at the top of my list. I noted that it had lovely floral and peach aromas, gentle apricot and peach flavors and a slightly creamy finish.

To see if this was just a fluke, I later tried the Pepperwood Grove 2005 Pinot Noir (also about $9) and the wine turned out to be another winner. It’s packed with red currant and strawberry flavors, good acidity and a slightly spicy finish with a touch of vanilla. Very nice.

The cool thing about Pepperwood Grove wines is that they’re widely distributed, meaning you’ll have no problem finding them in the wine section at your local grocer. Another plus is that the wines are frequently on sale – usually in the $6 to $7 a bottle price range, which I think makes them an incredible value.

Don’t be a wine snob. Sometimes an inexpensive wine can be comparable to one that’s two to three times the price. But you’ll never know until you give it a try.

Food & Wine Class at Quel Fromage

June 23rd, 2007

6:30 to 8:30 pm – Summer Entertaining With Wine and Cheese. Kick off the summer with helpful hints for entertaining featuring gourmet cheeses and complimentary wine pairings. Dan will co-host this informative and entertaining evening with local chef and author, Mary Ellen Carter. Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

Chuckanut Ridge Wine Company Opens New Tasting Room in Downtown Bellingham

June 18th, 2007

What do bunnies, wine and downtown Bellingham have in common? They all have tie-ins to the new Chuckanut Ridge Wine Company tasting room, which recently opened at 1017 North State Street.

Owner/Winemakers John Powers and Michael Burnett have things up and running at their new location, which is just south of Pepper Sister Restaurant in the old Glass Works Art Studio building.

The Chuckanut Ridge space is brightly colored and houses a small tasting bar, locally produced artwork, and plenty of wines that are available for purchase. Powers says he has plans to turn the lower level of the space into a barrel room and private tastings and catered events are also likely in the offing.

Included in the winery’s current releases are a 2005 Chardonnay ($10), 2005 Pinot Grigio ($12), 2005 Merlot ($12), 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15), 2003 Syrah ($17) and the 2004 Bad Bunny ($17) which is a blend of cabernet and merlot.

Also worth noting is the upcoming release of Bunny LeBlanc, a blend of 80 percent chardonnay, 10 percent viognier and 10 percent pinot gris. I think this sounds like a terrific combination and has all the makings of another smash hit for Powers and Burnett, whose highly acclaimed Bad Bunny has become Chuckanut Ridge’s signature wine. The LeBlanc will retail for about $12 and should be available by late June.

The tasting room is currently open from noon to 6 pm Tuesday through Sunday or by appointment. Throw in a visit to nearby Honey Moon Winery, and you’ve got a nice outing in downtown Bellingham that nets you some great wine tasting. For questions or more information about Chuckanut Ridge wines phone 527-0900.

Mount Vernon’s Carpenter Creek Winery Expands, Matures, and Provides Great European-Style Wines

June 11th, 2007

Following the progress of a newer winery can be a bit like watching a rambunctious teenager mature into a responsible adult. Such is the case with Mount Vernon’s Carpenter Creek Winery, which is now in its seventh year of production.

Since my last visit about three years ago, the tasting room has expanded, a picnic area has been added, and the wines, which were good then, have gotten even better.

Owner/winemaker Jeff Hammer and his wife Tara are making all the right moves, keeping their operations relatively small and producing a number of wines with a distinctive, European style that places less emphasis on heavy-handed fruit flavors and encourages wine drinkers to pair them with food.

The 2005 Chardonnay (about $15) is full-bodied and complex with hints of vanilla, butterscotch, caramel and a mildly creamy finish. Slightly sweet with flavors of citrus and green apple, the 2006 Riesling (about $13) is refreshingly unique and will pair well with a variety of spicy foods.

nullRed wine offerings include the 2004 Meritage (about $13), a well-priced, cabernet-based blend with dark currant flavors and touches of smoke and spice. A 2004 Reserve Merlot (about $24) and an outstanding 2004 Cabernet Franc (about $32) are also available, but only at the tasting room, which is well worth the 30-minute drive from Bellingham.

Also watch for the 2004 Syrah, which will be released later this summer. I had a sneak preview of this awesome wine, and it’s loaded with dark fruit flavors and touches of black pepper. I think it’s easily Hammer’s best effort to date.

Carpenter Creek wines are available locally at Food Pavilion and Haggen stores and at Purple Smile Wines in Fairhaven. They can also be sampled at the tasting room, which is open Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm and by appointment. For more information visit

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